Industrialists are not sure if they would be spared if they criticised the govt: Rahul Bajaj
NEW DELHI : The government listens to criticism and is always ready to respond to it, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in parliament today, referring to industrialist Rahul Bajaj’s blunt question to Home Minister Amit Shah at an event, a video of which has gone viral on social media.
Replying to a debate on the economic slowdown in the Lok Sabha, Nirmala Sitharaman called Amit Shah’s response to Mr Bajaj an example of the government’s willingness to listen.
“I was on the dais. It was with the attitude that we are willing to hear criticism and respond to it, rather than say you can’t speak at all. The Home Minister’s response shows we are quite happy to hear,” said the Finance Minister, who was among the BJP leaders to respond sharply to Mr Bajaj asking Amit Shah about what he believed was an atmosphere of fear and “a lack of confidence” in confronting the government with critical questions.
“I have been told that I am the worst Finance Minister, they’re not even waiting for me to finish my term. I told them that please give me more ideas, we will work on it. If there’s a government that listens, it is PM Modi’s government,” she said.
At an event organised by The Economic Times newspaper on Saturday, the industrialist Rahul Bajaj said “Nobody from our industrialist friends will speak, I will say openly… An environment will have to be created… When UPA II was in power, we could criticise anyone…
You (the government) are doing good work, but despite that we don’t have the confidence that you will appreciate if we criticise you openly (Aap achchha kaam kar rahe hain, uske baad bhi, hum aapko criticise openly karein, confidence nahin hai ki you will appreciate),” the Bajaj Group chairman said at an awards event organised by the Economic Times in Mumbai.Bajaj prefaced his remarks by wryly noting that he was “born anti-establishment” and thus his concerns were “minor things”.
He told Mr Shah that people feared criticising PM Narendra Modi and his administration for fear of reprisals. “…You are doing good work but if we criticise you there is no confidence that you will appreciate that,” Mr Bajaj said. “In UPA 2 we could criticise anyone,” he added.It creates an environment of intolerance and we are scared.
The government must be open to suggestions instead of listening to only those it believes are supporters, industrialist Kiran Mazumdar Shaw said today in the middle of a row over Rahul Bajaj’s blunt question to Home Minister Amit Shah at an event and her own tweet that “India Inc is a pariah and the government dislikes criticism”.
The Biocon chairman said it was unfortunate that a positive response from Amit shah had to be followed by statements by various BJP leaders “which are not correct”.
“There is an economic slowdown. They must listen to multiple voices and multiple quarters to look at what is possible. If they only listen to those voices who they think are their supporters and don’t want to listen to others perceived as anti-national or anti-government, we are not going to get all the suggestions,” Ms Shaw, 66, told to a News channel.
She said “Right now, I still believe they are dealing with us at arm’s length.”She described Rahul Bajaj as a strong voice of corporate India and said Amit Shah’s reply was the “right response to hear” from the government. But the Biocon CMD questioned why any criticism of the government was viewed as “anti-national” or “anti-government”.
“India Inc was relieved that Mr Bajaj asked the question. I don’t think anyone should attack Mr Bajaj. Let’s not start making it a political discourse,” said Ms Shaw, referring to BJP I-T cell chief Amit Malviya accusing her of a political motive in coming out in support of Mr Bajaj. “Ridiculous. I am extremely apolitical and critical of UPA-2,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, admitting that his father had been courageous and people admired him for the quality, Rajiv Bajaj said he had read somewhere that “courage is knowing that it may hurt and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s what makes life hard”. He added that this was often the reason why people cheered for the Bajaj Group chairperson, but only from the sidelines.
Rajiv Bajaj also said personally, he was not sure of the “relevance of raising such a sensitive and subjective issue at a public function to celebrate corporate excellence”. He added that he had his issues with the government, especially on crucial issues like the electric vehicle policy, but it had “rarely left a poor taste”.
On Saturday, at an Economic Times event that also saw Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railways and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal in attendance, Rahul Bajaj had said: “Nobody from our industrialist friends will speak, I will say openly… An environment will have to be created…
When UPA II was in power, we could criticise anyone… You (the government) are doing good work, but despite that we don’t have the confidence that you will appreciate if we criticise you openly (Aap achchha kaam kar rahe hain, uske baad bhi, hum aapko criticise openly karein, confidence nahin hai ki you will appreciate).”
This evoked a response from Shah, who said there was no need to fear but if Bajaj felt so, then “we will have to make an effort to improve the atmosphere”.
The exchange left social media divided. While many lauded the industrialist, his critics said the very fact he said what he did proved his observations were without any basis. Rajiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj auto, on Monday seemed to disagree with the remarks of his father, industrialist Rahul Bajaj, on the political atmosphere in the country. In an interview with Economic Times, Rajiv Bajaj said a “durbar” to his father “is like a red carpet to a bull”.
(With Agency Inputs ).